Strange Frenzy: The Dance of the Seven Veils (2010)


for Piano Quartet, Percussion & Optional Voice of Composer

"There is a strange frenzy in my head,

of birds flying,

each particle circulating on its own.

Is the one I love everywhere?"

-- Rumi, 13th c. Persian poet


Though the Dance of the Seven Veils (purported to have been danced by Salome) isn't part of Middle Eastern dancing tradition, my suite of 7 miniature dances for each of the veils conveys the point that such dances reflect the West's fascination with and sensationalization of other cultures. I am inspired to continue an intersection, or reconciliation, of Eastern and Western culture in a piece of chamber music, such as I did in an earlier piece, The Sensuous Terrain. The employment of a modern dancer to interpret the dances is strongly encouraged. The premiere is to be choreographed and performed by friend and colleague, Julie Nathanielsz. The work is loosely guided by novelist Tom Robbins’ exploration of Westernized seven veils mythology in his book, Skinny Legs and All. The following is excerpted from Catherine Ganitano's article* summarizing Robbins' interpretations:

“The first veil represent[s] the illusion created by patriarchal religion. Its existence denied the reality that the world is almost entirely sexual in its processes. Insecure males, who were threatened by the perception of female dominance, sought to suppress feminine influence and sexual fire by serving a male god and declaring any female activity short of modesty to be hedonistic (Robbins 403). The second veil govern[s] the illusion that human beings consider themselves superior to plants and animals; and, on the basis of that authority, feel that they can reign over the destiny of flora and fauna. The realization that humanity is an intrinsic function of nature who itself holds the key to successful coexistence (404). The third veil signifie[s] the illusion that the problems of humanity could be solved by political, rather than philosophical, means. The seductive nature of political solutions aroused the desires of the greedy to justify the conservation of their valuables and the desires of self-righteous to hold fast and not rethink their positions (405). The fourth veil represent[s] the illusion that religion was the answer to a supreme being. The truth, as it unfolded, revealed that the superior force in life was nature. Further, nature was in a constant state of its own evolution and its flexible responsiveness to life’s needs. Religion sought to define the world in a singular, time-constrained sense of values, which denies the true existence of nature (407). The fifth veil [i]s the illusion that money had value. When this veil fell, it was realized that money was a measurement of value assigned to a need or desire. The irony is that objects measured in abstract values have their worth subordinated to that of the abstraction (408). The sixth veil represent[s] the illusion that today must be spent preparing for tomorrow and learning the lessons of yesterday. The truth exposed today as the day of judgment, and the future will never arrive (409). The seventh veil create[s] the illusion that religious prophets could define the parameters of your life so as to be in compliance with the wishes of the Divine. The true revelation is that each individual must create their own unique 'relationship with reality, with the universe, and with the Divine' and reap their rewards or suffer their consequences in accordance with their own participation in those relationships (412, 413).”

This new piece channels one of my favorite works, Stravinsky's Agon—also a set of dances. Other elements in the composition include Middle Eastern scales and rhythmic patterns, the solo guitar work of Frank Zappa and lyric material from an early pop song written by me, containing the words of the 13th c. Persian poet, Rumi.

Jack W Stamps

San Antonio, Texas,

August 6, 2010


Click to download PDF of full score

Click here to listen to the premiere of the piece.

Yousif Sheronick, Percussion

Kathryn Lockwood, Viola

Mark Cheikhet, Violin

Wendy Warner, Cello

Irina Nuzova, Piano

Jack W Stamps, Voice

Premiered in San Antonio, December 12, 2010